There was only one surprise when OSHA’s top 10 violations for 2018 were unveiled: PPE.

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements Standard: 1926.501
  2. Hazard Communication Standard: 1910.1200
  3. Scaffolding Standard: 1926.451
  4. Respiratory Protection Standard: 1910.134
  5. Lockout/Tagout Standard: 1910.147
  6. Ladders Standard: 1926.1053
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks Standard: 1910.178
  8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements Standard: 1926.503
  9. Machine Guarding Standard: 1910.212
  10. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection Standard: 1926.102

The top 5 have remained same since 2014 and the remaining 5 just change order a bit year-to-year. The only change to the frequent flyer list was PPE – Eye and Face Protection, which edged out Electrical for the number 10 spot – its first appearance on the top 10 list.

Other items to note are the number of violations continue to trend downward, and proposed penalties for egregious offenders also declined after a 2-year increase following the OSHA penalty revision to comply with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The only exceptions to the downward trend were Fall Protection – General and Training Requirements, Ladders, and of course the newcomer to the list, PPE – Eye and Face Protection.

Now before we go blaming or crediting the Trump administration for these declines, let’s look at the facts. Violations have slowly and steadily declined since 2013, and the largest penalties are usually due to unplanned events such as a fatality or complaint, not a routine or scheduled visit. OSHA has no control over when these incidents occur, nor does it have goals for penalty amounts to reach or to decrease. Penalties are based on the specific circumstances of each incident. Furthermore, it only makes sense that penalties would start to level off or decrease after the drastic increase from the previous 2 years following the 78% inflation adjustment.

This year the largest proposed penalty was $1.8 million following an explosion that resulted in 5 fatalities and 12 injuries, including the double leg amputation of a 21-year-old. Citations included 14 willful (including 8 egregious instance-by-instance) and 5 serious violations for failure to control combustible dust, failure to maintain equipment and emergency alarm system, inadequate PPE, and lack of training.  This penalty is lower in comparison to last year’s highest proposed penalty of $2.6 million following a worker fatality. A worker was crushed to death in a robotic conveyor which resulted in 23 willful, serious, and other than serious violations (including 19 egregious instance-by-instance) for failure to control hazardous energy and improper machine guarding. While the death and injury toll was higher in this year’s incident, the number of violations was higher last year, constituting the higher penalty. Remember … the penalty reflects the number and type of violation, not the number of fatalities.

If you have questions or need any assistance staying off OSHA’s top 10 list, please contact me at jamia@smithmanage.com.  Jami Arnold is an Environmental Health and Safety Consultant at SMG.